This week in Montana politics: Walsh tries to weather the plagiarism storm, Zinke presents his energy plan, Lewis promotes his "Farm and Ranch Jobs Platform", Daines votes to sue the President.
Sen. John Walsh worked to weather the storm from the recent accusations that he plagiarized his Masters thesis for the U.S. Army War College. Walsh told the Billings Gazette editorial board that plagiarism charges shouldn't overshadow the achievements of his 33 year career in the National Guard.
“I’m very hopeful that Montanans will look at my overall career and not just this one serious blemish on my career and evaluate me on the entirety instead of just this one issue,” Walsh told the Gazette.
Concerning the plagiarism charges, Walsh told the Gazette:
I know I made a mistake. I did not complete my research paper properly. I take full responsibility for the paper as well as the consequences from the paper. I have received notification from the academic review board at the Army War College and I’m going to provide them with any information that they need as we move forward.
According to the A.P., "The Department of Defense has taken the unusual step of overseeing a plagiarism investigation being conducted by the U.S. Army War College against Sen. John Walsh because the Montana Democrat is a member of Congress, the college’s provost said."
The Daines campaign has been mostly quiet about the situation, but this week they released a new ad that hints at the scandal:
Daines votes to sue President Obama
On Wednesday, Steve Daines joined all but 5 House Republicans in the unprecedented decision to sue President Obama over his implementation of the Affordable Care Act. At issue is whether the president has the authority to make unilateral changes to the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Daines and other House Republicans are framing the standoff as a separation of powers issue.
In a statement on Thursday, Daines said:
Time and time again, the American people have seen President Obama delay and change laws unilaterally—or fail to execute laws altogether. Our constitutional system of checks and balances not only protects the American people from government overreach—it ensures that Americans’ voices are heard in their government. It’s important that the constitutional separation of powers is upheld no matter who is in the White House.
Zinke Energy Plan
U.S. House candidate Ryan Zinke presented his energy plan in Billings this week. The plan, which the campaign calls "an all-of-the-above energy strategy", leans heavily on coal and oil, while advocating less regulation of energy development.
Zinke's plan points to environmental regulations as the major barrier to more energy development in Montana:
Government regulation and partisan politics are chief among the factors stifling our energy economy. In order for Montana to realize its full economic potential we have to remove the uncertainty created by government regulations. Whether it is through constantly changing expectations of the Environmental Protection Agency, frivolous lawsuits from special interests, the abuse of the Endangered Species Act as a means to prevent development, or unreasonably restrictive federal land management, the federal government is preventing energy development and innovation.
The plan advocates reining in the EPA, streamlining the permitting process for energy projects, building the Keystone XL pipeline and the proposed west coast ports for exporting coal abroad.
On renewable energy, Zinke's plan says, "I support investing in the research and development of new renewable sources and ways to make those sources more sustainable and affordable."
Lewis Agriculture Plan
John Lewis, Zinke's opponent in the U.S. House race, released his "Five-Point Farm and Ranch Jobs Platform" this week, saying "Montana priorities should be driving the agriculture policies that come out of Washington, not the other way around."
Lewis's ag plan calls for more funding to federal programs that support beginning farmers and ranchers, and opposes the proposed closure of Farm Service Agency offices in Montana. The plan identifies rail congestion as a problem for Montana and says "Lewis believes the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and BNSF must do a better job of prioritizing rail shipments of agricultural commodities through Montana."
Lewis's plan also advocates for relaxed EPA regulation, saying "Lewis believes the EPA can and should do a better job of working with ranchers and farmers so that they have a voice in the process as new Clean Water Act rule are interpreted. ... Too often, proposed rules and regulations are confusing and are not crafted with the individual impacts on Montana farms and ranches in mind."